Designer Profile: Victoria Cho, Owner of Metalepsis - Los Angeles
Hi Victoria! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a designer, formerly trained as an architect, now exploring my passion in designing mindful and beautiful objects at various scales and in different medium. In the more recent years, I found my happy place in sunny California (Los Angeles) with my rescued terrier named Bobby.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’ve had an interesting upbringing because my family moved to Buenos Aires from Korea when I was a toddler. I spent my formative years in Argentina, so often feel more connected to latin culture than my asian heritage. Over the years, and especially as an adult, I’ve learned to fully embrace and love both of my backgrounds, which have been so vital in shaping who I am today. I pursued my undergraduate and graduate studies in architecture in the US, and I was pretty certain that would be my lifelong career. Who knew that I would end up here in LA, not doing architecture at all! I know now that I had to go through it all, and have that architectural background to find my way in the design world at my own pace and scale outside architecture.
You've lived quite a few places! Could you walk us through your moves and travels?
I never intended or planned my life to turn out this way, or go through so many places. But it’s also true that I became a bit of a nomad after I left Argentina. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere specifically. So when opportunities came, I could freely move, whether it was for 3 months or 3 years.
I spent my undergraduate years in Seattle at the University of Washington, and then I moved to Paris when I found an internship at a small architecture firm. After a year or so, I moved back to the US and went to UC Berkeley for my Masters in Architecture.
After studying and working in architecture, what made you shift and start designing products? How did Metalepsis begin?
After graduating from UC Berkeley with my Masters, I moved to NYC to pursue my dream as an architect in the Big Apple, but soon after the recession hit. And all of us, I mean ALL of us in construction, lost our jobs. It was a strange time of panic and fear but also of incredible solidarity and creativity. It’s just like when a natural disaster hits your town. Somehow, people come together, and good things come out of it. And this was the time when I started thinking about other creative ventures, such as jewelry. That’s when I met Astrid; we used to work at the same architecture firm. She and I started Metalepsis as a creative way to apply our design and fabrication skills into jewelry.
What is your design process and how has it evolved?
Surprisingly, the design process hasn’t changed much. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing! It usually starts with an art or design exhibition I saw or a particular architect I got super excited about. I love going down the rabbit hole and learning about exciting work, and absorbing it all like a sponge. All of my designs begin with simple hand sketches and then I quickly move to Rhino, a 3D-modelling software, where I can easily play with design ideas more intricately and 3-dimensionally. Once I feel like I have found a cohesive design narrative, I start making prototypes. It goes from a 3d file straight to the 3D-printer via Shapeways, which is an online 3D printing service.
What inspired the creation of your most recent collection, METAΩBJECTS?
I always envisioned Metalepsis being more than a jewelry line. The intent is to encompass many facets of design work, whether small or large, wearable or not, 2-dimensional, 3 or 4-dimensional. It takes time and money actually to explore different mediums and to continue to challenge my design passion beyond jewelry. This year I finally launched METAΩBJECTS, a series of small 3D-printed porcelain objects. I wanted to create a collection that could embrace both mini-sculptures and jewelry. That’s how the new Ito series was born.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local?
I feel very fortunate that I’ve been provided with the opportunity to build an incredible network of talented and amazing makers, designers, artists, and store owners in LA. And this also gave me an insight into the effort, cost, and talent that goes into making products locally. So, I try to shop locally as much as possible because by doing so not only do I get to support the local economy but also create a meaningful way to connect with the makers and the products.
What is your relationship with social media?
(sigh…) It’s definitely a very rocky, love/hate relationship. I used to care and stress about it, but after the algorithm change, I just couldn't fight it anymore, so now I just let go. I feel committed in the same way as before with my content and what I post but I’m definitely making an effort not to let the number of likes or engagement affect me anymore.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
When I see the designs come to life, and take on their own life through our customers. Sometimes the final designs may not be what I had first anticipated, but that’s also part of the beauty of the process of discovering materials and design limitations.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with Metalepsis?
Right now I’m a one-person operation so I’m constantly struggling with doing everything myself, from design and production to art direction to marketing. Sometimes you get so lost in the day-to-day tasks that you get carried away and forget even what goals you have set for yourself. Time is always a challenge; there never seems to be enough of it to tackle everything!
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I really believe that there’s no craft that is so unique or different that you can’t benefit from sharing and learning from one another. As women, we struggle with our own set of challenges, and I think it’s so valuable to have a safe place for us to voice those and support one another. That’s why I love that The Glossary is providing a creative platform for women to connect and share their struggles and experiences.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
My biggest inspiration to this day is my mother, she is a self-educated entrepreneur and designer! She has the most exceptional work ethic, and like any immigrant tiger mom, her motto is work work work!
Some of my creative female friends who are moms are truly inspiring. I admire their strength, and how they manage to juggle (and struggle with) motherhood, work, intimacy and self-care.
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Over the years I’ve learned how important it is to set your intent and goals, so that you can always go back to them. And also be able to question if those goals need to change.
When you start a small business like this one, driven by passion and creative motivation, it doesn’t always mean you know much about how to run a business. At least I didn’t know how to, but quickly I learned that we were not the only ones struggling with this challenge. So don’t be afraid to ask questions and for help. You’ll be surprised to see that some are willing to help you, and that’s how you can build a network of people you can trust.
Do you have any resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
If you’re new to LA and you want to get into jewelry design, the jewelry district in DT is your mecca and can be overwhelming. But don’t give up. I wish there was a directory that could help you navigate through it. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist as far as I know. The best way is asking around, getting to know the stone setter, the finisher, the casting team. They have been doing this for a while, and much of their work happens through word of mouth.
Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
My godmother was pursuing Architecture at the University of Buenos Aires when I was in high school. She’s the one who first introduced me to architecture and made me realize that that’s what I wanted to do.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
I love going to Ernest Debs for a mid-week hike with my dog. It’s only about 15 minutes away from Downtown LA and yet you feel completely remote and disconnected while getting to see some of the best sunsets that you can from the east side.
Hauser & Wirth is one of my favorite additions to the Arts District; not only because of their art, but also because of the public space they have created for people to meet and gather.